Four Muslim youths in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district say they have performed the last rites of more than 800 bodies of Hindus according to Hindu traditions, at a time when crematoriums and burial grounds in most parts of the country are brimming as a result of rising Covid deaths. Abdul Jabbar, Sheikh Ahmad, Sheikh Alim and Arif Khan, who have been carrying out these Hindu funerals at a crematorium in Yavatmal, say they haven’t even had the time to take a short nap in days. Relatives of many people who are dying of Covid-19 have been abandoning the bodies at the crematorium out of fear of catching the deadly disease, they say.
The novel coronavirus has been raining miseries on Yavatmal district in Maharashtra, India’s worst-affected state. According to the latest available reports, nearly 45,600 people have got infected in the district while over 1,150 have died. The state on Thursday reported 66,159 new Covid-19 cases in a 24-hour period and 771 deaths; the number of active cases hit 6,70,301.
The moment a person dies of Covid infection, the whole family is spooked, locals in Yavatmal say.
According to officials, the situation is so dire that people are not helping those infected by the virus and do not even turn up for the last rites. In situations like that, others like these four youths have had to step in. Abdul Jabbar and Sheikh Ahmad have been working at the crematorium for the past 17 to 18 years. At this time, they say they are performing the last rites of Hindus according to the religious tradition of the deceased. They say that they perform all these tasks by having deep faith in Allah. And that they will keep doing this in the future.
Since virtually no one is coming forward to perform the last rites of the dead as per their religious rituals, the administration has handed over this responsibility to the municipal corporation. For this task, the civic body has constituted two teams and they perform the last rites. The members of these two teams are working day and night at the crematorium, officials say.